Photographer: Bloomberg The World Health Agency has entered the controversy over vaccine passports, announcing its opposition. It is not known enough whether vaccines prevent transmission, says the WHO. And vaccine passports would not be fair to poorer countries where vaccination has been slow. They could discriminate against people who cannot be vaccinated. Although the agency has always been late to the Covid party, this time the WHO is probably right, but not entirely for the reasons it gives. Yes, it is true that vaccine passports would surely reinforce the inequality caused by the initial vaccine distribution. As you might expect, richer countries bought the lion’s share of available doses. The poorest nations are jostling each other. Requiring some sort of biometric or QR code as proof of vaccination as a condition of international travel would be bad publicity for the West’s supposed commitment to fairness. However, the claim of inequality could be overcome if such passports are truly necessary for economic recovery – as the travel and hospitality industries claim. But are they correct? Consider Godzilla v. Kong. Seriously. The More The film made nearly $ 50 million domestically in its opening weekend, a figure no one expected at a time when, supposedly, audiences were too scared to see it. go to the cinema. Across the world, the monster movie had nearly $ 300 million in revenue in its first week of release. But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. It is increasingly clear that the public is much less afraid than a few months ago. As restaurants reopen, people are eating in droves. The malls are crowded. Popular demand for the freedom to live is finally exhausting the executive order restriction that has so characterized the pandemic response. I say this not to criticize public health officials, but to stress that people can often take risks. -versus-reward decisions on their own. It is true, as many suggest, that our acceptance of risk can pose risks to others. But the onus of showing that these externalities are worth the burden of special passports falls on supporters who may find it difficult to make their point: since vaccines have been around, people have been wondering how to show someone has one. In 1880, a letter to a medical journal complained that it was impossible to know for sure whether smallpox vaccination worked because the only “proof of vaccination” was the scar left by the bite – a scar that the appearance of the smallpox. disease could make it invisible. . Yet the world has survived: for over a century, we have accepted as proof of schoolchildren’s vaccination a piece of paper with a scribbled signature, or even, at one point, a simple statement from the child’s parents. Overseas travelers have long known about the yellow international certificate of vaccination, which is usually filled with an impenetrable hand. If proof of vaccination is important, why do we now need a fancy QR code? Yes, the small CDC-approved cards that show someone received the Covid-19 vaccine seem easy to tamper with. Or even to steal: On the site where my wife and I received our snaps, I noticed a bunch of new unmarked cards on an unguarded shelf near the back exit. prove that there is an epidemic of forgery or theft. Here, I feel the same as I do about voter identification laws: before we walk any further down the road to a society where we constantly prove our identity, supporters should at least be able to show off with something. more than anecdotes that a problem in fact exists. Yet even though we have survived for over a century with relatively straightforward evidence of vaccination against a variety of dangerous viruses, I have not been able to find a single reported case involving their tampering. Granted, in the current crisis, fake certificates have been offered for sale on the dark web for $ 250 or more, but we don’t know how many takers there have been, and it’s hard to imagine any the demand they generate, they will survive. the widespread availability of the vaccine itself, which is free. This in turn suggests that distributing more doses around the world (estimated to cost $ 27 billion worldwide – barely a drop in the American bucket these days!) Is the cheapest and easiest way. to prevent any potential tampering. And that would have the significant advantage of helping the poorest countries to overcome the pandemic. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at [email protected] Before he’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg terminal. LEARN MORE .